Estevan rolls out use of roadside drug testing device

Estevan Police Service has received special training in Ottawa in order to test drivers for impaired driving to detect substances such as cannabis and cocaine. The new device, the Drager 5000, enables police officers to test the saliva of individuals suspected of consuming these substances.

According to Estevan police, they are planning to use the new testing device to carry out regular roadside checks. Since suspicious driving is considered to be sufficient reason to check the driver for impairments under new legislation, the individual suspected of impaired driving will be asked to provide an oral fluid sample to run the test. For this test, the oral fluid sample will be collected using single-use cotton swabs. Although it is possible to decline to do a swab, in this case, they will be charged for refusing to provide a sample.

The Drager 5000 system is portable, but is reported to be somewhat fragile and cumbersome. In her interview with Estevan Mercury, Estevan Police Service Constable Deanna Conquergood said.

“This particular device we can take it with us on the road. Unfortunately, it is a little cumbersome. It has to be maintained in a temperature controlled setting. It can’t be below 5C, and it can’t be above 40C.” She added, “For instance, in our winter condition that we have now if it gets exposed to extreme temperatures like that, we have to make sure we get it back in into controlled setting and give it time to adjust to the temperature before we can do a test on it.”

The testing device will test positive at a threshold of concentrations of 25 nanograms (ng) or more of THC per ml of blood, while having a blood concentration of more than 2 ng/ml of THC is considered to be an offence, and having 5 ng/ml is a more serious offence.

According to Constable Conquergood, “[The suspect is required to] rub a cotton swab on cheeks, on gums, under and over the tongue. We will know that there is enough fluid there when a blue line shows up. It takes probably 30 seconds to get enough liquid.” Subsequently, it takes the Drager device two to three minutes to determine the presence of THC or cocaine in the sample.

Upon receiving positive results for any of the two substances, police officers arrest the suspect for impaired driving and carry out further investigation at the police station.

Although the device is already being used, the Estevan police plan to carry out more testing on volunteers in the upcoming month to provide additional training for drug recognition experts (DRE) and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) specialists.

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